Updated: Dec 2, 2020
An Open Letter To Myself (And Anyone Else Who Needs To Hear This)
See that girl over there? She was brave, fearless and driven. She had goals, dreams and ambitions. She wasn’t reckless, but she wasn’t cautious either. She had a devil-may-care attitude, but with purpose and conviction.
She veni, vidi, vici-ied her way through life. And conquer she did. Sure, there were pitfalls along the way. But each stumble was met with a swift yank to the bootstraps. Nobody did the yanking for her. She could do it herself, thank you very much. She climbed all the way to the top of that mountain, planted her flag, and then sat down to admire the world at her feet.
And she sat. And she sat. And she sat. Over time, she got cold and numb, sitting there at the top of that mountain. And a little bit lonely. But she couldn’t figure out how to get down. Until one day, the winds of change came along and blew her off. Only this time it wasn’t a stumble. It was a faceplant.
Now, flat on her back, staring up at the sky, she finally saw all that she had missed on the way up. She had been so laser focused on the one mountain that she failed to notice that there were many mountains in the range. Nor had she noticed the hills and the peaks and the valleys. And the myriad trails that twisted and turned in every direction.
Bloodied and bruised, she lay there at the bottom of the deep, dark canyon she’d fallen into (that she had also overlooked) for a good long while just staring up at the clouds and watching them roll by. She had no idea where she was supposed to go next. So she watched. And she waited. Waited for a sign, a spark or a flash of inspiration. She prayed for divine intervention. None came. Until one day, it occurred to her, that there was only way to go - up. And the only way to get to “up”, wherever that was, was to start climbing again - hand over fist, toe in crag, one step of the rocky wall at a time.
So what the hell had happened? Here’s the harsh truth. Absolutely nothing. And absolutely everything. It was plain ole’ shit happens. Good shit and bad shit. It’s called LIFE, Missy.
Let me ask you a question. How many times have you jumped on the hamster wheel of fill-in-the-blank self-flagellation? “I used to be so…” or “When I was in younger I…” or “When did I get so…” How many times did you wonder where your type-A, driven, take-no-prisoners, “self” went. Over and over you asked, “How did I get here?” “Where did I lose…HER?”
Answer: you didn’t. Look again. You see that girl up there? You didn’t lose her. You ARE her. And she is you. Same. Only different.
So what is it that she had that you didn’t? What is it that you have that she didn’t? And perhaps more importantly, what is it that she had that you do too?
One thing that she had was a road map. Clearly definable steps to achieve all that she wanted. Ace high school. Check. Ace college and LSATs. Check. Get into top tier law school. Check. Pass bar exam. Check. Move to New York City and get a job in a law firm, any law firm. Check. Side hustle and network to get foot in door in music law. Check. Begin climbing ladder and ignore glass ceilings. Check. Become successful lawyer in the music business. Check.
Another thing she always had was a belief that she could do anything she set her mind to. She never second guessed or doubted herself. Not for a moment.
Did you? Oh, indeed. Because life threw you some curve balls, didn’t it? Everything didn’t turn out exactly as planned. The world you conquered wasn’t exactly the world you wanted. Yet you tried to stay a course that just wasn’t right for you anymore, if it ever even had been. But you kept going. For years.
So at some point, you started meandering. You made a lot of excuses as to why you stayed that course - some of which were quite valid. The big New York City career had morphed into a work-from-home situation, before that was even a real thing, and it provided many benefits for you and your family. You could be a career woman and a stay-at-home mom at the same time. You got to cling to the ego and identity of being a music lawyer, while having the flexibility to make school lunches, shuttle kids where they needed to be and band-aid what needed to be band-aided. It provided your family, and you, the second income that allowed for creature comforts, for never having to say “no” to taekwando and music lessons, for your husband to take some risks and start ventures that provided him personal satisfaction and growth opportunities. It seemed the prudent thing to do. And safe.
The other truth is that you didn’t know which mountain to climb or river to cross next. The laser-like drive and focus were things you just couldn’t recapture. Even if you had, I wonder if you would have done it. The truth was, you weren’t quite as brave and fearless as she was. And stepping out into unchartered waters, even if you had a destination in mind, didn’t feel like an option. Because you had something she didn’t. People to consider other than herself.
But all of that came at a price. The adversarial nature of the legal profession, even in the transactional space, was a constant and pervasive source of dread and discomfort. A startling realization that came many years in as you’d never been one to shy away from conflict or controversy. But the day-in and day-out nature took its toll. The omnipresent anxiety over having made a mistake that could cost your client legally and financially, and you your job, reputation and even license to practice, was an anvil on your shoulders and a relentless tax on your psyche. For twenty years. It became, in essence, soul sucking.
So when the damn finally broke and the truth became undeniable - I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE AND MAINTAIN MY SANITY. LIKE FOR REAL I’M GOING TO LOSE MY SHIT! - you did something she could have never done. You looked inward. She had been on autopilot - set goal, achieve goal, move to next goal. No self-analysis was needed, or more aptly, wanted.
But not you. After you climbed your way up out of that canyon, and saw the world with fresh eyes, you started digging. A big hole, right there at the edge of that canyon. Deep. Into your life, your choices, your actions, your thoughts, and your emotions (or lack thereof). You started a journey of self-analysis and introspection - out of necessity - being at the edge of sanity and all, and out of desperation - to find drive and passion. And this time, purpose. It was time to find your purpose.
The thoughts and emotions were coming fast and furious and the many, many words needed a place to go. And so you began writing it all down. Journals, sticky notes, backs of envelopes, cell phone memos, and notebooks galore. And you started noticing, for the first time, all the nuggets of wisdom all around you that you had spent a lifetime ignoring, disregarding and even spurning as too trite or pedestrian - Bible verses turned into wall art, teachings of the Buddha engraved on a wine glass, little boxes of daily motivation quotes, even inspirational quotes turned into memes on Facebook and Instagram. And you started to pause and to think about them. They gave you little bite-sized pieces of perspective, and they became a way to start making sense and to organize the myriad thoughts and feelings relentlessly coming at you at lightning speed.
And so you began to use them as a launching pad to start writing. For real. And the mack files was born. Because you found your passion - writing. Your guiding principle - writing honestly with humanity and fallibility exposed. And your purpose - to remind yourself, and hopefully anyone else who needs to hear it - that you have learned some things along that way that she didn’t know:
That not only is it okay not to be perfect, it is okay for others to know that you are not perfect. That it is okay to be fallible, and for others to know that you are fallible. That it is okay for others to see your imperfections. And for you to finally see them too. That you do not have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders or be perceived as being able to do so. That it is okay to need help sometimes. To not have it all together, and for others to know that you do not, in fact, have it all together. Because none of us do. And that it is okay to try something risky and new, something outside of the box you kept yourself in - with no roadmap and no safety net.
And so with that, I have embarked on another journey. I am scaling another mountain. I don’t have a road map. And I don’t care. I no longer need one. And this time, I will focus on the mountain, but also be aware of all of the hills, valleys, lakes and streams. I will have faith in my purpose, forgiveness for my fallibility, strength in my vulnerability, allowance for redirection, and I will go where I am led to go.
Because I do have a few things in common with her. A belief that, while not perfect, I am still a bad ass. I can do anything I set my mind to. I believe that I can. And so I will.